As the coronavirus crisis continues to creep into every corner of day-to-day life, it was only a matter of time before it started to have a major impact on hockey. IIHF President Rene Fasel has revealed to the Swiss media that the threat of coronavirus is being taken seriously as it pertains to upcoming international tournaments. Fasel states that the IIHF’s medical commission is currently meeting to discuss the potential cancellations of any international events in March and April. This would include the U-18 World Junior Championships, scheduled to be held in Michigan in April. Should the sickness persist, the IIHF will also have to consider cancelling the 2020 World Championships, slated to take place in Switzerland in May. Fasel gives March 15th as the date when these difficult decisions will begin to have to be made. This appears to be a decision based wholly on health risks, as the tournaments are insured against cancellation and neither the IIHF nor the hosts would be facing financial loss. With that said, Fasel also ruled out the possibility that tournaments could still be held but just closed to the public. With no end to the coronavirus outbreak in sight, it appears more likely than not that the U-18’s and World Championships this year could be the next victims of the disease.
- Of course, this is not the first link between coronavirus and hockey, as the mass shutdown of the Chinese economy has greatly limited the supply of sticks to the NHL and other levels of the game. Both Bauer and CCM have their primary factories in the country most greatly affected by this outbreak and neither have been in operation for weeks, while shipping to North America has also been halted. Players across the league have begun to stock up on sticks as they face the possibility of a coming shortage. NHL players, who often order custom sticks in small batches, may have to work with what they have through the rest of the season and possibly into the postseason.
- In non-pandemic news, former NHLer Jyrki Jokipakka has benefited greatly from a move to Europe. Now with his second team in his third season since leaving North America, Jokipakka was the undisputed top defender for the KHL’s Sibir Novosibirk this season, leading the team in time on ice and finishing near the top in assists, points, and blocked shots. He also finished among the top-ten producers on defense league-wide. While Sibir has not yet begun their Gagarin Cup playoff campaign, Jokipakka is already the bright spot of the season for the team. The club opted to reward him for his success with a new two-year extension. Jokipakka flashed ability in the NHL, but never able to put it all together in stops with the Dallas Stars, Calgary Flames, and Ottawa Senators. So, while the 28-year-old could have waited to see if there was NHL interest this off-season, it seems like he has made the right choice to stick with where he has finally found consistent success and is valued as a top contributor.